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  • Writer's pictureCindy

Wanted: Out of this Rut

I need a job.

You know, like a second job… This parenting stuff is expensive.

Or maybe a better job. I guess I don’t know. Can I just be independently wealthy? Is that an option? I’d be an awesome philanthropist…

Seriously, I work full time, and I feel like that should be enough-- but that’s not how life works these days. Kirk works part time, but his full-time responsibility is Nolan. And let’s face it, it’s hard to not stress out about money with less than two full-time employees in a household (unless you’ve got the kind of Really Great Job that typically requires education beyond a Bachelor’s Degree).

I could get really political here, but I’m not going down that road… For one thing, I do not have the energy to start an argument on the internet--especially not one involving politics in the United States of America in 2020. For another thing, Kirk and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, so I’m just not going down that road...

But Kirk and I both have college degrees. Neither of us have a Master’s Degree, but we both had Pretty Good Jobs when we got married. After Nolan’s diagnosis, we made the decision for Kirk to stay home with him-- at least in the short term-- at our first opportunity. Obviously, our household income has never been the same. We knew it wouldn’t, but I don’t know if we anticipated the impact ten years later.

And along the way, my income has changed. First, I took a different position with the company I’d been with for almost a decade because I couldn’t put in the required mandatory overtime. Why? This simple answer is because of Nolan. The complicated answer includes a lot of guilt over not being there for him or Kirk, and not being able to help ease Kirk’s full-time caregiver burden as much as I wanted or needed. Plus, the overtime had an impact on my own mental and physical health. Eventually, I moved into a position that did pay a bit better, but again, I ended up on mandatory overtime for much of the year. That position was later cut (after I’d been with that company for 15 years), and I was out of work for several months.

When I finally got back to work, it was for less money (even without overtime) than my previous job. As relieved as I was to be back at work, I knew it would be a struggle. I just haven’t figured out a way around that.

I’ve tried various “side hustles”, but I’m typically on Nolan Duty from the time I get home from work until he goes to bed every night along with the bulk of the weekends (we need to double-team a lot-- there’s just no way around it for us). That leaves me without enough time or energy to be successful in any side hustles I’ve tried so far-- at least not without affecting my performance at my full-time gig. And we just can’t put that at risk.

I love my kitchen wall... Except for the always-full bill holder.

It doesn’t help that our family has some very different expenses than most families have… Sure, we pay for housing, electricity, heat (because, Wisconsin…), groceries, and so on. But most families don’t pay for things like Music Therapy or have to replace things as often as we typically do. And don’t even get me started on how much laundry gets done around here-- remember how much laundry potty training caused? We’ve been potty training for well over a decade, and now the clothes are much much larger…

As for the kinds of things we replace more often than most families? How about furniture. Nolan has broken or otherwise worn out no fewer than three beds and a futon bunk-bed combination in his 14 years. The last one was a new record for him-- a steel bed frame that lasted from just after Thanksgiving (when we put it together) until the end of January. We just replaced it this weekend with a very Pinterest-esque project made from milk crates that we hope will last a bit longer. Why milk crates? They hold a ton of weight-- plus, if one breaks we can replace it instead of the entire piece of furniture… At least that’s our hope.

And other odd expenses? Gosh, there are more than a few… We typically go through several yoga balls a year (Did you know they can pop? Yeah…) And don’t get me started on fidget toys like spinners, Mardi Gras beads, squishy balls and toy snakes. Plus, his bedding gets washed often enough (out of necessity) that it wears out-- who knew THAT was a thing? And if you’re pricing incontinence briefs, I’ve been down that road and would be happy to show you the way...

The one expense we haven’t had is care for Nolan, but that’s exactly why Kirk decided to stay home. When Nolan was first born, Kirk and I worked opposite shifts. My mom bridged the gap between when Kirk left for work and when I got home. Now that he’s as big and strong as he is, that option wouldn’t be safe for anyone.

And I’ve considered going back to school (or other training) in pursuit of a different career all together… But who can afford that? And would I even have the time or energy to be successful if I could afford it?

Seriously, I would scrub public toilets at the local big box store (you know the one-- where 80% of their toilets are always either clogged or just flat out gross? Yeah, that one.) for a living if it would get me out of this rut. Honestly? That doesn’t sound that bad--I’d do something far less desirable… I just don’t think that exists without relocating.

And I keep trying to figure out how to get out of this rut, but obviously I haven’t figured this one out yet… It’s not the kind of thing that I want someone to fix for me-- I want to just not have to worry about covering a family’s normal expenses. I guess, for once, I just want normal. That’s not something I usually look for these days.

So for now, if you need me, I’ll be in this rut… It’s partly the making of circumstances and partly of my own lack of energy and self-confidence. But it’s where I’ll be: likely contemplating another failed side hustle or dreaming of winning the lottery on a ticket I’ll never buy.

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